"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."  ~~ 1 John 4:8, NIV

Hi all,

Happy Valentine's Day!!!  Per tradition, I've written a story to mark the occasion.  It's mostly a series of loosely linked vignettes about some of the Dyelanders and their relationships.  I hope you enjoy it.  When next a story appears in this newsletter, it'll find our friends confronting some serious trials but some lighter fare (including my response to that one movie that opened this week...) will appear on the Author's Cut prior to that.  I'll keep you posted as those stories are completed!

With the next newsletter in two weeks, I'll resume Sunday delivery.

Love and be loved today!

God bless,

A Cord of Three Strands

Mama's and Daddy's Girl        The Robe and the Ring        A Stór and Milady        Lamb Mommy

When the Honeymoon is Over        What the Lord Has Done        Anam Caras

Mama's and Daddy's Girl

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Andrew looked away from his computer and glanced beside him.  JenniAnn's eyes were closed but her hand softly patting Belle's back told him she was still awake.  Belle, however, had finally drifted to sleep after several fitful hours.

"You can go to sleep, you know.  I'll keep watch," Andrew offered in a whisper as he lightly stroked the weary woman's hair.

JenniAnn opened her eyes and peeked over at Andrew.  She smiled at the photos on his laptop.  After a few moments, she rested her head on his shoulder.

"Thanks but I'm okay.  Eyes just needed a rest.  But I want to help with the video.  It's tradition!  Although... what a change from last year!" she mused aloud.

The angel of death smiled.  "Whatever can you mean, Laja?"

"Oh nothing big.  Just, ya know, last year we were doing this in my office, both dressed rather cutely if memory serves, and briefly enjoying a bit of dancing.  Now here we are in your room... in pajamas... in bed... at 11 AM.  And... oh yes!  We have a baby!"

Laughing, Andrew surveyed their mismatched pajamas and Belle who was snuggled against her mother.  He bent to softly kiss the baby's forehead.

"And yet... disheveled and sleep deprived... I'm leaps and bounds happier now than I was then," JenniAnn softly continued.

Careful not to jostle Belle, Andrew embraced her mother.  "Me too.  And Belle doesn't feel near as warm as she did last night.  Hopefully the cold's on its way out."

"Yep!  I think the fever's broken.  Poor, little love... colds are nasty enough when you're a grown-up and to deal with them as a baby!" JenniAnn cooed as she nuzzled the child's curls.  "At least it didn't hit on her birthday."

"Thank God for that!"  Andrew clicked into a folder on his desktop and turned the screen so JenniAnn would have a better view as he shifted through images from Belle's first birthday party.  There she was face-down in her cake having decided that was the most expedient way to enjoy it.  In another image, all the grandparents were squeezed onto the couch with Belle beaming from Vincent's lap.  The next image revealed the tiny girl with a gift box over her head after she'd found she enjoyed it more than the clothes it contained.  Then came several shots of Belle listening intently as Owen read her the book Kemara had written and he had illustrated about her very first days.

JenniAnn sniffled.   

"Pretty tempting to just turn this Valentine's video into a show about our little valentine," Andrew opined as he went through more images of Belle.

"How little she was..."  JenniAnn wistfully remarked before beginning to giggle.  "You gotta put that one in the video!"

"Really?"  Andrew's cheeks flushed as he looked at the photograph of himself, his face half-covered in shaving cream.  "I don't know that it's very... festive."

"Okay, well, maybe not.  No... it is!  It definitely reminds me of love.  Paternal love... and filial."

Appeased, Andrew dragged the image into a folder to be used for the Valentine's show.  As he did, he remembered when JenniAnn had snapped it.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Andrew knocked lightly on JenniAnn's bedroom door.

After opening the door silently, JenniAnn took the angel's hand and pulled him towards Belle's nursery.  They peered inside.

Belle sat in her walker, shrieking with glee as she threw Cheerios which Fawn and Lulu gobbled up.

"I stepped into my room just long enough to grab my cell phone and, I swear, she waited until I was out of sight to start that," JenniAnn explained in a hushed tone.  "Like she knows she's not really sposed to be doing that.  But it's just so cute..."  She giggled as a handful of Cheerios showered down on the two ecstatic dogs.

Andrew smiled but shook his head.  "Laja, we can't just let Belle get away with something cause it's cute."  He watched as the last of the cereal was gobbled up. 

Fawn gave Belle a hearty lick, causing the girl to erupt in giggles as she hugged the dog.

JenniAnn looked up at Andrew.

"Well... it is good to share.  Actually, as much as Belle loves her Cheerios... she's being very generous.  Selfless even," Andrew asserted.

Stretching up to kiss his cheek, JenniAnn laughed.  "Softie.  Well, now that you're up and around, let's get her out so she can practice walking.  Unless you came in here for a reason?" she checked.

"Well..."  Andrew dragged his hand through his hair.  "Maybe it's goofy."

Belle wheeled to her parents, grinned, and stretched her arms towards them. 

"Up, up."

Andrew knelt beside her and kissed her.  "Just a minute, baby girl.  Daddy has to ask Mama something."

Belle beamed at her mother.  "Mama...  Up, up."

JenniAnn burst out laughing. 

"You trying to play us against each other, Belle?" she asked as she sat beside Andrew.

The baby continued to grin.

Chuckling, Andrew shook his head.  "Uh oh..."

"Uh oh!" Belle echoed.

"I hope there's not been a real 'uh oh,'" JenniAnn commented as she took Andrew's hand.  "What's going on?"

Andrew shook his head.  "Nothing.  I mean nothing bad at all.  It's just... well, I don't think I want to go through another spring and summer with this beard.  It got a little uncomfortable last year in the heat and this is going to be a pretty active few months coming up: helping add onto Veritas, set-building at St. Genesius', expanding our stable, and assorted carpentry orders.  So I thought maybe I'd shave it off this morning."

Her eyes twinkling, JenniAnn patted the troublesome facial hair.  "Your beard is lovely but so is your clean-shaven face.  I'll be happy either way.  You know that."

Andrew kissed her hand.  "I do but..."

"Dada!" Belle cried. 

Andrew lifted her from her walker and looked to JenniAnn as he cuddled their baby.  "Belle's never seen me without my beard and I saw this video online where a little girl had a total meltdown because she didn't recognize her Daddy without his beard.  I don't want Belle to have a meltdown."

"Aww, love..."  JenniAnn hugged him and took one of Belle's flailing hands and kissed it.

Belle puckered up and planted her own kiss on her mother's sleeve.

Andrew smiled as Belle turned into his chest and began to pat his shoulder.  "Well, Laja, she's definitely still the little cuddlebug you... we... hoped she'd be.  Aren't you, Belle?"


Andrew sighed and held her close then looked over to JenniAnn.  "So... I was thinking maybe you could sit with me and hold Belle while I shave.  Then she can watch and know it's still me."

"Aww, sure.  Happily.  You wanting to do that now?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Okay."  JenniAnn scooted a few feet away.  "Sweetheart, can you come to Mama?"

Andrew released Belle and watched with pride as she toddled towards JenniAnn.  Though her gait was wobbly, she didn't fall once.

"Good girl!" he cheered.

"Ooh!" Belle replied.

"Now let's walk together to Daddy's bathroom, okay?"  JenniAnn held out her hand to Belle.

Andrew took the girl's free hand and they slowly walked towards his bathroom with Belle even managing the changing floor types.

"Such a big girl!" JenniAnn enthused as she lifted Belle up. 

"Up, up!" Belle trilled. 

After the little one had received a kiss from Andrew, JenniAnn leaned against the counter so Belle would have an optimal view of her Daddy.

The toddler seemed mystified by her father's actions as he lathered his face. 

JenniAnn laughed when she cocked her little head and her eye brow flinched upwards.

Chuckling, Andrew finished with the shaving cream and reached for his razor. 

"Whatcha thinking, baby girl?" he asked after a few strokes.

Belle squinted.

"Still me.  Still Daddy," the angel assured. 


"Still Dada," Andrew repeated.

Belle continued to take it all in relative stride as Andrew focused on the other side of his face.

He winced as he nicked his chin. "Ow."

"Ooh.  Here, let me get a bit of Kleenex," JenniAnn offered.

As she handed him a tissue, Andrew turned, allowing Belle to catch a glimpse of the nicked side of his face.

Catching sight of the bit of blood, the baby let out a hysterical sob.

While Andrew fumbled to cover the scratch, JenniAnn swayed back and forth in an attempt to soothe Belle.

"Oh... oh... oh...  It's okay.  Daddy's okay!" she murmured.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Andrew lamented as Belle continued to scream.  "Bad idea... bad, bad idea."

"Sweetheart...  Belle, honey, look at Daddy.  Daddy's fine!" JenniAnn assured to no avail as Belle buried her face in her chest.  Looking up, she noticed that tears were welling in Andrew's eyes. 

"Love, you try.  Here."  JenniAnn peeled Belle's fingers from her shoulder then held the crying child out to Andrew.

"Baby girl...  Daddy's sorry.  Daddy's okay," Andrew cooed. 

Belle finally looked at him and began to calm.

With his face still half-covered in shaving cream and a bit of tissue, Andrew cuddled Belle closer.

"Sweet Belle," he whispered.

After letting out a little shudder, Belle reached up for Andrew's cheek.

"Dada... ow, ow."

Andrew kissed her forehead.  "Just a little.  It doesn't even hurt now, baby."

"Dada..."  Belle let out a little sigh then laid her head against Andrew's shoulder.

Reaching into her pocket, JenniAnn removed her phone and snapped a photo of the two clinging to each other.  She brushed at a tear as she continued to observe Daddy and daughter as they comforted each other.


February 11th, 2015

"And you spent the rest of the day with half a beard..." JenniAnn recalled, kissing Andrew's shoulder.

Andrew smiled sheepishly.  "So much for avoiding a meltdown."

"But you tried.  I honestly didn't think Belle would even really recognize what blood was nor that it sometimes signifies pain.  I mean Joshua held her when he cut his head and she didn't react."

"It was mostly covered and her eye sight wasn't as clear at that age as it is now."

"True.  Well... looking back, it was pretty sweet.  She sure loves her Daddy.  So do I.  And sometimes..."

Andrew shifted so he could more easily look into JenniAnn's eyes.  "Sometimes?"

"It still seems like a dream that we're here.  After all the years of missed hints and lost chances and disappearing friends and barely talking and, well, angst... we have this." 

The angel stroked her face. 

"Like think of the year you thought I was, well, breaking up with you for lack of a better term.  Or the Valentine's I was with Eliot.  Or a few when we didn't even see each other!  Or much of anyone...  Now we have so many friends that it's a good thing we gave up that interview thing cause there'd be too many people to talk to!"

"We would have had to start before Christmas," Andrew realized.

"And who wants to spend Christmas planning for Valentine's Day.  Especially with such amazing Company at Christmas..."  JenniAnn sighed when Andrew opened a folder of Christmas photographs. 


Andrew and JenniAnn saw that Belle had awoken and was staring at the screen.


Groggy, Belle slid off JenniAnn chest's and settled between her parents. 

"You wanna look at pictures of Joshua, too?" JenniAnn guessed, helping Belle to prop her head up with a couple pillows so she could get a better look.

Andrew moved the laptop closer.

Belle gave a sleepy smile to the on-screen Joshua.

Her father hummed Maryam's lullaby and continued to cycle through the collection of images until his little one had nodded off again.

When Belle didn't react to JenniAnn smoothing some curls behind her ears, she and Andrew resumed talking.

"That's the first smile in the past couple days," Andrew remarked, his adoring gaze lingering on Belle.  "She must be feeling better." 

"I think so.  Now we'll just be in for a couple sleepy days which is fine by me."  JenniAnn yawned.

"Me too!"

"It was good of Joshua to give you this week off." 

Andrew nodded as he eyed a photograph of Joshua with Sy and Ivy.  "I think he would have just for the holiday, knowing how much it means to us.  But I'm especially grateful I could be here with you and Belle while she wasn't feeling well."

JenniAnn squeezed his hand.  "Me too."

Returning the squeeze, Andrew smiled at her.  "Now onto New Year's?"

"Yes, please."

They both smiled as they took in the first image: a feminine hand sporting a gold and emerald ring.


The Robe and the Ring

That afternoon, in the backroom of Lily's Loot, Emma's dance students practiced for their spring recital.  Their faces glowed with joy and excitement as Emma and Azalea proudly looked on.  After some final pirouettes and leaps, the two observers applauded wildly as the performers took a bow.

"Well done!  Well done, everyone!" Emma congratulated.  "Maisy, you did wonderfully with your solo!  And Lily... our little butterfly-girl!"

Lily pranced towards her teacher and gave her a hug then slipped into her mother's arms. 

"Now let's do a few cool down stretches then it sounds like your family members are beginning to gather in the front room to bring you all home," Emma informed.

After the stretches, the room cleared out and soon every student was paired off with a parent, sibling, or friend who took them home.  While Lily busied herself twirling and watching her skirt unfurl around her, the three adults helped themselves to some coffee Basil had brewed.

"So how's Peter holding up?" Basil asked.  "Big night for him."

Emma nodded.  "Nervous, I think.  But excited.  Bittersweet feeling, though."

"You've seen him in costume, haven't you?" Azalea checked.

"Oh yeah.  A while ago."

"So was that..."  The older woman bit her lip.  "Umm... weird?  I just mean... well, it would be weird for me to see Basil dressed as Joshua."

Basil grimaced.  "You wouldn't be the only one feeling it, Azalea."

Emma quickly swallowed her coffee and laughed.  "Actually, it's not as weird as I thought it might be.  I suspect that's one of the reasons Joshua was so encouraging of our living together.  I know it'll be different when Peter starts acting like Joshua during the show but even seeing him in full costume... he's still 100% Peter to me.  Peter who helps empty the dishwasher even when it's not his night and eats cereal out of a mixing bowl and can never quite remember to let his towels dry a bit before throwing them in the hamper and making everything smell like stale water."  Though she wrinkled her nose, Emma's smile shone.

Azalea playfully elbowed her husband.  "Gee, that sounds familiar."

Basil held up his hands in surrender then smiled at Emma.

"Peter who proposed to me..." she finished, still smiling as she brushed at a tear and gazed at her engagement ring.  "He's just so real to me that I don't think the illusion will ever be full-blown for me... which maybe would be a problem if not for the fact that I love Peter second only to... to Joshua.  So I can easily do lovelorn and heartbroken up there onstage with him."

Azalea hugged her friend.  "I know you can, Emma.  We both do."

Basil patted her arm.  "You bet we do."

Emma's eyes filled again.  "Sometimes I just can't believe what a difference a year can make."

Before either Azalea or Basil could answer, the bells above the front door chimed.

Lily ran towards the new arrival.

"Uncle Peter!"

Peter scooped the girl up into his arms and tweaked her butterfly wings.  "You are an absolutely beautiful butterfly, Miss Lily."

Lily beamed then wiggled.  "My skirt twirls."

With a chuckle, Peter set her down and watched as she showed it off. 

"So it does!"  He ruffled her hair then looked to Emma, his face clouding when he saw her reddened eyes.

Emma hastened towards her fiance and embraced him.

"Something wrong?" Peter asked after a kiss to her forehead.

"No, no.  Just getting a bit nostalgic."  Emma led him back towards the counter where Basil had another cup of coffee waiting.

"Coffee, Peter?"

"Yes, please.  So how are you both today?"

"Doing good!" Azalea chirped.  "We had a fantastic dance practice.  Emma has put together a very sweet show."

"I know you had to be in the back, Emma, but I wish you could have been out here, too.  While we were waiting, everyone was talking about how thrilled they are that you're doing this," Basil relayed. 

With a smile, Emma hugged Peter's arm. 

"Guess Maryam knew what she was doing bringing me here."

"We're so glad she did and that Joshua brought Andrew, JenniAnn, and Belle," Azalea added.  "We can't imagine these past months without all of you!" 

"Impossible," Peter agreed.  "Speaking of Andrew, he called just before I left the theatre.  Belle's on the mend and Catherine and Vincent are taking her this evening so Andrew and JenniAnn can join us tonight for, umm, the big reveal.  You'll be there?" he asked Azalea and Basil.

The couple nodded. 

"I come, too!" Lily cried before either of her parents could speak.

Peter laughed.  "Glad to hear it, Lily!"

"We've already gone over, several times, that you're just pretending to be Joshua," Basil assured.

"And she even replied with 'I pretend to be a butterfly' so we know she understands."  Azalea smiled at Lily.

Peter let out a sigh.  "Good.  I am a little worried about the kids but I also know they're going to be around for some of the rehearsals so might as well get them used to it."

"Definitely," Emma agreed.  "The sooner, the better.  And speaking of that... we should probably head out so we can get ready."

Peter nodded.  "Right!"

The five exchanged hugs and then Emma and Peter made their way back to their apartment to pick up their potluck dish for the evening's Superstar rehearsal.  Finding themselves with a few spare minutes, they met on the balcony. 

After settling beside Peter on the bench, Emma lightly brushed her hand through his hair.

"It's not as thick as Joshua's," he opined.

Emma hugged his neck.  "I love your hair.  And no one's expecting you to be Joshua, Peter.  More than that, no one wants you to be.  Having a Joshua and a Peter is very nice.  I, for one, am incredibly glad and grateful to have a Creator and Redeemer and Shepherd but... I do look forward to having a husband, too.  And having a fiance is very nice in the meantime."

With a chuckle, Peter looped his arms around her.  "I'm glad you're glad.  And it is very nice to have a fiancee."

After they exchanged a few kisses, Emma rested her head on Peter's shoulder and thought back to the night they had become engaged.


Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

After a beautiful and delicious dinner on the terrace of their favorite restaurant, Emma and Peter had stopped at Willowveil to check on the festivities there and say hello to many of their friends.  However, as it was their first New Year's Eve as a couple, they wanted to ring in 2015 privately.  At 11:30, the two returned to their building. 

Emma yawned as soon as they stepped over the threshold of their apartment. 

"So... are we staying gussied up or welcoming the New Year in our pajamas?" Peter asked.

"Would you be disappointed if I voted pajamas?" Emma checked with a weary smile.  "I definitely want to stay up until midnight, either way."

"Up until midnight in pajamas it is!" Peter agreed.  "I was rooting for PJs myself."

The two parted for a few minutes before reconvening in the living room.  They drew back the blinds and curtains in order to view the fireworks then sat side by side on the couch.

"Do you want to turn on the TV and watch any of the countdowns?" Emma offered.

Peter considered for a moment then shook his head.  "Actually... do you think we could just talk?  2014 was something else and I just want to savor it for a little while longer."

Hugging him, Emma nodded. 

"That sounds perfect."

At once, they looked at their photograph with Joshua that sat in the center of the mantel. 

Peter took Emma's right hand in both of his. 

"Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and just think 'Wow...  We've hung out with Jesus'?"

"At least once a week.  And then I usually grab his... my hoodie and hug it.  That's not weird is it?"

"No.  Sometimes I get out of bed and just stare at the robe for a while... and, yeah, sometimes I hug it, too."

"And all those times we've had to fight giggles because of something or other that's said in church..."

Peter laughed.  "Like that time Pastor Tony was trying to make a point about how much work went into daily life in Nazareth and actually said 'Now, what we have to understand is that Jesus couldn't just go to the pantry and refrigerator and pour Himself a big bowl of Froot Loops.'"

Emma shook her head as she laughed along with him.  "Of all the cereals he could have mentioned!"

With a sigh, Peter embraced her.  "I'm so glad I have you to share all those little inside jokes with, sweetheart.  And our friends, too.  It would have been an incredible blessing to meet Joshua under any circumstances... but hard, too, if there'd been no one to share it with."

Emma nodded against Peter's shoulder and set her hand over his heart.  "I'm glad, too.  And I think it's... I know it's helped us grow so close.  I mean... I think the religious/spiritual things were going to be some of the hardest aspects of my life to share with someone but for us... we had to meet it all head on and discuss it early on and so... so basically the entire time we've been together, it's just been so... real.  That first time we really talked, it was with Joshua right there and you told us about the racist neighbor lady and what your grandma said about your skin tone and Jesus' and..." 

Peter peered into Emma's eyes as she knelt beside him and cupped his face in her hands.

"That chick was blind on top of being racist, by the way," Emma murmured.  "To think you were anything but beautiful..."

"Emma..."  Peter kissed the palms of each of her hands then secured his arms around her when she sat back down.

Emma drew in a deep breath.  "Anyway... it's just been nice to never have been... surfacy.  I mean not that we haven't had our fair share of lighthearted, goofy conversations.  It just seems like from the moment we were... us... and, well, as soon as I accepted that... that you truly cared about me... we've been us for... for keeps."

"For keeps..." Peter echoed, caressing Emma's hair.  Then he startled and loosened his hold of her.  "I'll be right back."

Thinking he needed a bathroom break, Emma laughed.  "Okay.  But hurry!  It's almost midnight and we have to kiss!"

"Have to?" Peter teased as he headed towards his room.

Emma rolled her eyes and smirked.  "Well, I don't mean have to.  But I want to!"

"So do I.  And I'll be not even a minute.  Promise!"


Peter hurried towards his dresser.  When Joshua had visited at Christmas, he'd asked him about collecting Emma's ring from the safety deposit box.  With a glint in his eye, Joshua had agreed that would be a very good idea.  Thus, Peter had re-hid it in the secret compartment.

After a quick peek at the ring, Peter closed the box and slipped it into the pocket of his robe.  As calmly as possible, he returned to Emma.

"So how we doing on time?"

"11:58.  Two more minutes of 2014!"

Peter reclaimed his spot on the couch and smiled as Emma settled into his arms again.  Then he noticed her close her eyes and sensed she was sending Joshua one final message for the year.  Closing his own eyes, he silently did the same.

"I love You, Joshua.  Help us to follow You closely in this coming year, with love and compassion.  Use us to further Your story and Your work.  And... I hope this is the right time and it's You I'm hearing and not just my own desires..."

"Ten seconds!" Emma cried before casting her phone aside.

"Nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three... two... one!" they counted down together.

Peter buried his hands in Emma's hair as she planted a kiss on his lips.

"Happy New Year, Peter," she whispered in his ear before throwing her arms around him and nuzzling his neck.

"Happy New Year to you, too, sweetheart."  Peter returned Emma's kiss and stroked her back.  "I... I hope I can make you as happy in 2015 as you made me in 2014."  After squeezing her hands, he pulled away.

"Peter..."  Emma looked on in confusion as he rose from the couch.  She'd hoped to cuddle at least a little longer...

Peter paced in front of the couch.  He'd never entirely settled on what he planned to say... or ask...

"Emma, I... I agree completely with what you said before.  About how... how we've never been 'surfacy.'  A-and so... so it's always rung a bit hollow with me when I introduce you as... as my girlfriend.  Because... well, in this day and age, sometimes that term means very little.  Boyfriend, too.  So... transitory.  And this is... for keeps."  Peter's lips trembled as he paused and smiled at his beloved.

Emma gasped when Peter knelt in front of her. 

"If... if it would be o-okay with you... I think I'd prefer introducing you as... as my fiancee."  Peter brought both of Emma's hands to his lips.

Tears began to cascade down her face.

Peter removed the ring box, opened it, and held it out to Emma.  "Emma, my darling, my love, would you marry me?"

Emma was horrified when she opened her mouth and nothing came out beyond a squeak. 

Peter thought his heart was going to pound out of his chest.  He calmed when Emma began to frantically nod.

After slipping the ring onto her finger, Peter returned to the couch and enclosed his fiancee in his arms.

Emma began to sob and found that it loosened the lump in her throat. 

"Yes... yes... definitely yes.  Peter... I love you...  So, so, so much."

"I love you, too.  A-and don't think this means that... that we need to rush.  Because I still... I mean everything I said.  We'll take as much time as you need before we get married," Peter promised.  "But I just..."

Emma kissed his forehead.  "I understand.  Now... now everyone will know what we know a-and what Joshua knows.  We mean for this to last."


Emma sighed with great contentment.  "There's just one thing..."


With a sly smile, Emma settled onto Peter's lap and looped her arms around his neck.  "When we tell this story... can we please leave off that I was wearing a Care Bears t-shirt when you proposed?"

Peter circled his arms around her waist and let out a stream of laughter.  "Sure."

With another breezy sigh, Emma studied her ring.  "So beautiful..."

"Joshua helped me pick it out."

"Aww!  When he came at Christmas?"

Peter shook his head.  "During your first visit with Dr. Sayer."

"Oh...  Darling Peter..."  Emma snuggled into the crook of his neck as she realized he'd bought the ring mere weeks after they'd started dating.  He had never doubted their love for each other.

After a few moments of awed, companionable silence; Emma stood and held her hand out to her fiance.

"A celebratory dance, my husband-to-be?"

"I would love that, my wife-to-be," Peter accepted with a bow.

Courtesy of her cell phone, Emma soon had "Moon River" playing and the two danced slowly as fireworks lit up the city's skyline.


February 11th, 2015

"Best New Year's Eve ever..." Emma cooed as she came out of her reverie.

"It was," Peter agreed.  "Now..."  He gulped.

"Now we head to St. Genesius'!"  Emma burst up from the bench and held her hand out to Peter.  "Everyone will love you, darling.  Well, they do already.  But I mean in the costume.  You'll see."

Peter took his fiancee's hand then hugged her.  "Thank you.  Your confidence in me means a lot, Emma."

"I know the feeling."  Emma bowed her head, remembering Peter's assurances that she could face her past and triumph.  She snuck a quick kiss then pulled him back into the apartment.

Peter grabbed the garment bag hanging from his bedroom door before holding his free hand out to Emma.  Her touch soothed his nerves as they left the apartment and began their journey to the theatre.


It was a light rehearsal at St. Genesius' that evening.  Peter had decided that if he could win over the children, he could win over anyone.  Thus, a number of the little ones were in attendance which required skipping the more distressing numbers.  After their potluck dinner, Emma and Peter disappeared backstage so the latter could get dressed.

Everyone else settled into the audience seating or milled around onstage.  JenniAnn took a seat near Eric who was laughing as he watched Zane run through the aisles with Jacob and Liam.

Smiling after them, JenniAnn lightly set her hand on Eric's forearm.

"Your Zane fits right in!" she commented.

With a proud smile, Eric nodded.  "He really does.  And it's good to see him feeling so energetic.  The doctor thinks maybe he's through with surgeries.  Neela and I will have to watch what he eats for a while but... but maybe things will start looking up for the little guy now."

"I pray so."

"How's your Belle?  I overheard Andrew saying she was under the weather."

"Just a cold but she's on the mend, thanks!  No doubt being spoiled rotten by her grandparents."

"That's great!  No one feels good when the kid's not feeling good."  Eric stared down at his wedding ring, recalling a November night spent in a hospital waiting room with Neela clinging to his arm.  He gave an embarrassed smile when a tear leaked from his eye.

JenniAnn handed him a tissue.  "You know what I was thinking about while you were up there singing 'Hosanna' with everyone?"

Eric chuckled.  "My free fall?"

Laughing, JenniAnn shook her head.  "Actually, no.  I was thinking about that time we... visited in the office."


"No, no.  I just mean... Belle spit-up and I thought you were going to pass out.  But earlier I was talking to Neela and she told me about some of what the two of you have gone through with Zane.  I thought there was someone decent behind that fake-baked, dyed facade.  Now I know I was right."

Eric glanced over at his wife who was all smiles as she talked with Kylie, Diana, and Cira.  Then he smirked and turned back to JenniAnn.  "You forgot gym monkey.  Fake-baked, hair-dyed gym monkey.  But thanks."

"You're very welcome."

Andrew approached, taking a seat to the other side of JenniAnn.  "I hope Peter's not getting himself too worked up."

Eric nodded.  "I hope not, too.  Even in the small amount of time I've been around him and Emma, I've been able to tell he'll do great.  And the way he talks about Joshua..." 

Eric sniffled as he remembered the carpenter.  The day he'd first returned to St. Genesius', Emma and Peter had given him a DVD of the previous year's performance.  He and Neela had viewed it together that night after Zane had gone to bed.  They'd both sobbed as they watched the man they'd known as a friend and neighbor, the man who had brought them together be betrayed, scourged, humiliated, and crucified.  And then joy... Jesus had come back from the grave!  Joshua... their friend, their neighbor... smiling so brightly!

That night, Eric had dreamed he'd been onstage with Joshua.  Peter had been there.  Emma, Zeke, Diana, Kylie, Shane, Edward, Caleb...  Each one of them had been costumed but not him.  He had stood, gazing up at the crucifix, wearing worn jeans and a stained T-shirt.

Joshua had stared down at him, tenderness in his eyes.

"For you, Eric.  I did this for you."

Eric had awoken sobbing and related the vision to Neela.  The next day, they'd both returned to the theatre and confronted Emma and Peter, wanting to know why they couldn't get Joshua out of their minds.  To their surprise, Peter had called Andrew.  To the couple's even greater surprise, Andrew had appeared... just like that... in the center of the theatre's office.  He and Neela had listened, clasping hands, as the three took turns telling them the truth about Joshua, about God.

"Peter will do great," Eric repeated as he returned from his reverie.

Andrew clapped the man on the back.  "I agree.  He will do great and hopeful..."

Emma stepped onto the stage.

"So, umm, Peter's ready."

"And so are we!" Zeke heartily replied, leading the others to cheer.

They all went silent and gaped when Peter stepped onto the stage wearing Joshua's robe and sandals and Doug's cloak.

"Is... is that good stunned or... or bad stunned?" Peter choked out.

Zeke stumbled towards his friend and threw his arms around him. 

"The Lord's proudly smiling down on you for sure, Peter.  I... I know it," he assured.

Fr. Mike was next to embrace Peter.

"You're truly in His image, my friend."

With tears in his eyes, Peter returned the priest's hug.

"Joshua... he feels so close," Peter whispered.

"He is close," Emma replied.  "Right here."  She rested her hand over Peter's heart.

Nodding and crying freely, Peter embraced her.  He laughed when their friends crowded around them in a massive group hug.  When they drew apart, Peter made his way to Lily, Jacob, Liam, Zane, Persephone, Galen, and Shelby and knelt in front of them.

"So what do you think, kids?  You think it'll be okay for me to pretend to be Joshua in our show?"

Emma observed with teary eyes as the children nodded.

Liam studied him, remembering what his Monny and Daddy had said about Uncle Peter needing to dress like Joshua to tell people about Joshua. 

"It's good," he decided with smile.

Peter gently squeezed his hand.  "Thank you, Liam."

"I think Joshua will be very happy," Jacob answered.

"I hope so, Jacob."

Persephone took Peter's hand.  "He will be.  Cause it's important to tell about him and now you can."

Smiling through her tears, Shelby hugged Peter.  "You look very Joshuan."

The other children nodded again.

Nearby, Gloria beamed.

"Thank you, all of you," Peter replied with a relieved sigh.

For the adults standing nearby, the heartfelt illusion deepened as  "Jesus" gathered the children to him.


A Stór and Milady

After everyone had dispersed from the theatre; Andrew, JenniAnn, Arthur, Monica, and Liam joined the Tunnel dwellers on their walk home.  Arthur and Monica watched Liam closely as he strode beside Jacob.  Monica eyes' misted and Arthur wrapped an arm around her waist.

"He looks so grown up with his book bag...." she whispered.

"He really does, doesn't he?  But happy."  Arthur smiled when the two boys began giggling at some private joke.

"Arthur, maybe it's too soon," Monica fretted.  "Liam... he's not been away from us since... since he came and..."

"Owen's agreed to come get us or bring Liam to us if he gets upset.  You know that," Arthur reminded.  "Monica, Liam's been so excited all day.  We have to let him try.  And I think it'll be good for him.  In only a few short months, he's going to start school here and what better way to begin to feel comfortable at a school than having a sleepover in it with the principal's kid?  So to speak.  Not to mention the principal is also Liam's Grandpa Vincent."

Monica managed a smile.  "True..."

"Besides... we haven't really had much alone time."  Arthur clasped the angel's hand.  "I think it'll be kinda nice."

With a slight flush to her cheeks, Monica nodded.

Though she and Andrew had deliberately lagged a few feet behind to give Arthur and Monica some privacy, JenniAnn guessed at what was on the caseworker's mind.  She hurried ahead and closed the distance.

"Ya know, if you two would feel better about it, you could always stay at Willowveil tonight and be nearer to the portal," she invited.  "Although I really think Liam's going to do just fine."

Monica glanced hopefully at Arthur but she could tell he was not enthused by the offer.

Seeing Arthur's face fall, JenniAnn tried to right things.

"Actually, even sposing Liam did get homesick... and, again, I really think he'll enjoy the sleepover... I'm betting he'd calm as soon as he was at Willowveil.  So Andrew and I could just call you and you could come get him there.  Might be nice to enjoy a quiet evening at the cottage before it gets all torn up when ya add on."

"That's true," Arthur agreed.  "But, Monica, if you want..."

Monica shook her head.  "No.  No, it's okay.  Thank you, JenniAnn.  We'll stay at Veritas."

JenniAnn beamed.  "Good!"

Andrew chuckled when she rejoined him. 

"I think I almost sabotaged Arthur's plans for 'date night,'" she confessed.

"But they're back on track?"

"Uh huh.  So... what are you thinking about for tonight?"



"Sleeping for as long as Belle allows."

JenniAnn laughed.  "And I support that plan fully.  I hope she did okay..."

"Let's go see."

Andrew took JenniAnn's hand and the two hastened to Catherine's and Vincent's chamber.  After a polite knock, Catherine greeted them with a smile and a finger at her lips.  Following her into the chamber, the two found Vincent settled into his favorite chair with a book and Belle.  The baby had been changed into her jammies and was dozing peacefully.

Vincent smiled at his goddaughter and Andrew.

"Belle drifted off right after dinner and has remained so.  I thought, perhaps, you could leave her for this evening?  She is so content and..."

"And so are you?" JenniAnn interrupted with a knowing smile.

"I am," Vincent averred.  "And it may settle Liam some to know his cousin is also here in the Tunnels."

Andrew laughed.  "Vincent, Catherine, if you want to babysit Belle overnight then that's reason enough for me.  Sure.  Right?"

JenniAnn nodded when she looked to him.  "Right!"

"I think it would be a good idea for your sakes', too.  You both look like you could use some quality sleep.  We don't want you getting rundown and also catching cold," Catherine pointed out, briefly resting her hand on JenniAnn's forehead.

"I feel fine," she assured.  "But yeah... tired.  We were just talking about that."

Andrew yawned.

With a laugh, Catherine patted his back.  "Then it's settled.  Now where..."

Jacob, Liam, Monica, Arthur, and Owen entered the chamber.

"There are my boys!" Catherine greeted, hugging Liam and Jacob.  "Boys, Belle's going to stay here in our chamber tonight so why don't you tell her and Papa/Grandpa Vincent good night and then let's get you settled in."

Mindful of Belle, Jacob leaned up to kiss his father's cheek.  "G'night, Papa."

"Good night, my boy."

"G'night, Belle."  Jacob smiled at the baby.

Liam hugged Vincent's free arm.  "Night, night, Grandpa."  He set a soft kiss on Belle's forehead.  "Night, night, Belle." 

Vincent squeezed the boy's hand.  "Good night, Liam.  I'll see you both at breakfast and then you'll be coming to class with us, Liam?"

Beaming, Liam nodded.  "Yes, Grandpa."

Leaving Andrew and JenniAnn to say their good nights, the rest of the group headed to the children's chamber.

When they stepped inside, several of the kids gathered around to cheer Liam's arrival.

Monica smiled and set her head on Arthur's shoulder.

"So many friends..." the man mused.  "He'll do just fine."

Jacob showed Liam to an empty cot near his.  "For you!"

Plopping onto the bed, Liam spread out and smiled.  "Very comfy."

"Good!  Now, Liam, you remember how close by my chamber is, right?" Owen checked.

The little boy nodded. 

"So if you decide you want to go home, it'll only take me not even a minute to get here and head that way with you.  Okay?"

"Okay.  But I think I'll be fine, Uncle Owen.  It'll be fun."  Liam smiled then looked to his parents.  "Monny, Daddy..."  He slid off the cot and hugged them both.  "Night, night.  You're coming for breakfast?"

"You bet," Arthur promised after kissing the boy.

Liam frowned.  "Monny... why are you crying?"

Monica hurriedly swiped at her tears and knelt down.  "I'm fine, Liam.  Just... so proud of... of my big boy."

Liam hugged her tightly.  "I'll see you in the morning, Monny.  They have coffee."

Monica laughed.  "Yes, they do.  And we will see each other then.  Good night, sweet boy."

"Night, night, Monny."

The angel closed her eyes as Liam kissed her damp cheek. 

When Monica opened her eyes, she discovered that Jacob and Liam were staring at her and seemed unsure of what to do.

Liam leaned in and kissed her other cheek.

"I love you, Monny."

Letting out a little sigh, Monica smiled and held him close. 

"I love you, too, Liam.  Have fun and... and we'll see you in the morning."

Arthur helped the angel to her feet and led her a few steps away.

"Sleep well, Liam.  Love you!"

"Love you, Daddy!"

With an appreciative smile for Owen, Mary, and Portia; Arthur steered Monica towards the corridor where they met up with Andrew and JenniAnn.  The latter hugged Monica as soon as she saw her.

"The first time is the hardest," JenniAnn soothed. 

"It gets easier," Andrew promised, gently patting Monica's back.

Letting out a ragged breath, Monica attempted a smile.  "Thank you."  She turned back to Arthur and hugged his arm.  "Let's go home."

Embracing her and kissing her hair, Arthur escorted Monica to the portal.


It was half past eleven and Arthur still couldn't sleep.  His mind was full of memories from the evening.  Blessedly, Monica's melancholy had let up soon after their arrival at Veritas.  She had been thrilled with the tiramisu he'd picked up for them to enjoy along with his own hand-crafted lattes.  Then they'd watched one of her favorite movies, a little Irish romantic comedy called The Closer You Get, while curled up together on the couch. 

Yosef's counsel all those months before had been far truer than Arthur had realized at the time.  The ancient carpenter had told him of how much the briefest and gentlest of caresses had come to mean for Maryam and him.  They were not a means to an end or a "base" on the way to a "home run."  Arthur chuckled as he recalled the saint using the same tired baseball analogy everyone did... although with a decidedly different message.  And he understood.  Knowing he and Monica would never and could never have sex, Arthur had greater appreciation for every brush of her lips against his cheek and for the way her hair tickled his chin when she snuggled near and the light touch of her hand over his heart.  He felt more when his arms encircled her and he nuzzled her hair than he ever had in bed with a woman.  It wasn't that the desire wasn't there but it was far less powerful than the joy and peace he felt.

Subdued by the blissful memories, Arthur was just about to drift off when he heard the noise.


Monica's weeping.

Not wasting a moment with robe or slippers, Arthur hurried down the steps from the loft and jogged to her room.  He rapped on her door.

"Monica?  Monica, I heard you crying.  I'm coming in."

Stepping into the room, Arthur found the angel hugging her knees.

"Monica..."  Arthur reached for her hand after he'd settled into a nearby chair.

"I... I... thought I heard movement in... in the hall.  Liam... after a nightmare... coming to stay with me.  B-but then I remembered... he... he's not here and then I got to thinking about one day he... he won't be here at all cause... cause he'll move out and... and... maybe get married.  A-and have a wife and..."

Arthur did his best to stifle a chuckle.

"Monica, Liam is five.  I don't think you need to think about his wife for a long, long time."

Monica stared at Arthur then began to laugh through her tears.

"I... I'm a mess."

"You're a mom.  And, I mean, if you think about it, it makes sense that this is harder for you," Arthur reasoned.  "Don't get me wrong.  I miss Liam.  But I just keep thinking about how much fun I had staying at my best buds' houses when I was younger.  You don't have those memories."


"But I'm feeling like there's more to this.  Is there?" Arthur carefully prodded.

Monica's face flushed.

"Did you have a nightmare?"

Surprised that he'd guessed, Monica gazed into Arthur's eyes and nodded.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Monica fixated on a nearby photograph of Joshua for a few moments.


Arthur bit his lip when she scooted over on the bed.  There was a line they had never crossed...  He remained where he was but leaned forward to brush a few tendrils behind her ears.

"Tell me?"

"I dreamed he came back...  Not... not Joshua.  But..."

"I see."

"A-and he... he tried to take me away from... from you a-and Liam.  Then... then someone grabbed Liam a-and I got away and was going to... to save him but then I was just... frozen.  And I... I didn't know where you were and..."

Arthur rubbed at his eyes.

"And I know Joshua and the Father would be there!  He was before...  Calling my name...  Joshua.  B-but still... it was... was very bad for... for a while."

Pushing back his concerns, Arthur settled beside Monica and pulled her against his chest.

"Milady..." he cooed as she wept into his shirt.

"A stór..."

"It's very common for parents to have nightmares about their children.  I do.  That someone shows up and says someone else made a custody claim...  That someone snatches Liam at a store...  Everyone has them.  I'm sure Andrew and JenniAnn could tell us both stories.  And I know my mom used to have recurring ones of me darting into the street in front of our house.  It's just... you went through something most parents never, never do.  It's no wonder that leaks into your nightmares.  But you're right, Monica.  Joshua and his Father would be there no matter what.  And they would help us no matter what."


"They'd be holding us all... even if/when we couldn't hold each... each other."

Arthur sighed as Monica nuzzled his shoulder.  He felt her nod.

Monica peered into Arthur's eyes, silently making her plea.  Stay with me...

Arthur knew he couldn't deny her.  However inadvertently, he had made her vulnerable to such nightmares.  Now it was up to him to help guard Monica against the residual chill and worry.  He slid beneath the sheet and quilt then rested on his side, facing her.

Monica shifted nearer and rested her hand over Arthur's heart.  She was startled by how swiftly it was racing.

"What sort of dog were you thinking of for Liam?" she questioned.

The question was so random and unexpected that Arthur chuckled.

"I guess i hadn't really given it much thought.  I figured we'd just take him to the pound and let him pick but, then again, that could be traumatic."

"He'd just think about all the dogs that were left," Monica pointed out.

"Exactly.  Maybe a bigger sort of terrier mix?  Fawn's size?  Maybe a little smaller?  Something we could carry if we needed to but big enough to play with and not worry too much about accidentally hurting him or her like you might with a tiny, delicate dog."

"He'll be so happy..."

"We'll go together to pick him or her out?" Arthur invited.

Monica stroked his face and nodded. 

"Yes, please.  Arthur?"


"Thank you.  For... staying."  Monica took one of his hands in both of hers and stared at them.  "I know this... it's difficult for you in... in ways I can't fully know and I... thank you a-and love you so much."

Arthur leaned in to plant a kiss on her forehead. 

"I love you, too, Monica.  And this... I could get used to this."  Arthur grinned. 

Caught off-guard but pleased, Monica giggled.

"Now to try to get some sleep?" Arthur suggested when her laughter ended in a yawn.

"Yes, I think so."

Monica flicked off the bedside lamp then returned to Arthur's embrace where she drifted off to a contented sleep.  He followed soon after.


Lamb Mommy

Thursday, February 12nd

Newly awake, JenniAnn remained huddled beneath the covers.  With Belle in the Tunnels, it was one of the rare mornings when she didn't have to get up.  Andrew, too, could sleep in and that fact was apparently not lost on him.  He remained asleep, looking peaceful and very comfortable.

JenniAnn allowed herself to gaze at the angel of death for a few moments.  Sometimes his very presence still amazed her... as did the frequency with which he ended up in her room at night.  On the nights when he'd have to leave or return at an ungodly hour for an assignment, Andrew kept to his own room.  He also seemed to have an uncanny knack for knowing when she craved time alone.  But, otherwise, he was there. 

"Do I have something on my face?"

JenniAnn giggled when Andrew opened his eyes.

"No, just the same lovely features as always.  G'morning.  Sorry that I was staring."

"Good morning, Laja.  And it's okay.  Sometimes I watch you or Belle sleep.  Kinda creepy... but I think it's okay so long as we're both creepy," Andrew teased.

"I think so," JenniAnn agreed as she snuggled against him.

"So... were you thinking anything in particular during your one-sided staring contest?"

"Just about you... being here... in my room... a lot.  I mean it's a good thing!  Just... surprising, I guess."

Andrew traced the floral pattern of the sheets. 

"I guess it's just that... well, I sleep more than I used to.  I mean it wasn't a big deal, sleeping alone, when I'd maybe only sleep 4 or 5 nights a month.  But now it's at least that many times a week and... that's a lot of alone time.  I'm still not used to that so... it's nicer to not be alone."

JenniAnn contemplated his words.  She remembered what it was like when the lot of them were living at Cora's with Joshua then later there in the castle.  Even when he wasn't in the room, Joshua's essence seemed to hang in the air like a thick, wonderful fog.  She supposed Andrew had "grown up" feeling that constant company.  Of course he still felt God's presence in the mortal worlds.  But not in the same almost palpable way.  JenniAnn felt something like it when Andrew was near.  Even when they weren't touching, she could sense and almost feel his presence there beside her.  She felt better, lighter, more comfortable when he was there.  He must feel something like it and maybe, in some way, it helped ameliorate his chosen separation from Home and that bliss-inducing fog.

"It is," she murmured in agreement. 

Andrew kissed her forehead.

"Are you hungry yet?" he asked.

"Yeah, getting there."

"I thought I'd make crepes.  What do you think?"

JenniAnn smiled up at him.  "I won't turn that down.  I'll see if Violeta's up and tell her."

"And I'll check on Max and Sean, see if they're interested.  Maybe call Kemara?"


They embraced once more then Andrew returned to his room to dress.  After doing the same, JenniAnn made her way to Violeta's room.  She was not surprised to find it empty.  After grabbing a coat from the hall closet, JenniAnn ventured out to the stable.  There on the ground, with Silly's head in her lap and Mary plopped beside her, Violeta dozed.

Yonah greeted JenniAnn with a soft bray. 

JenniAnn nuzzled and cooed at her donkey as she slipped him a treat.

After rousing, Violeta smiled sleepily up at JenniAnn who, after returning her smile, sat down beside her.

"How long have you been out here, hon?"

"Few hours."

JenniAnn smiled when Violeta's head lolled onto her shoulder. 

"Is something wrong?"

"Not wrong.  I was just thinking a lot."

"Well, Andrew's starting crepes for breakfast but I'm sure he won't have them ready for a while.  Do you want to talk about it?" JenniAnn checked.

Violeta nodded.

"I'm beginning to rethink what I told Andrew... about Silly," she revealed.

"Ah..."  JenniAnn studied the sleeping, year-old sheep and remembered.


Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

JenniAnn leaned against Yonah, occasionally glancing over at Adam.  The two had found themselves audience to a rare heated discussion between Andrew and his protege.

"Violeta, sweetheart, we all told you, Joshua included, that these lambs were going to be your responsibility," Andrew reminded.  "And responsibility isn't always fun."

"But you're talking about cutting into my baby!" Violeta shouted.

Andrew dragged his hand through his hair.

"Violeta, both Lulu and Fawn have been fixed.  Ivy's Leo's been fixed.  'Cutting into' really isn't the way to think about it.  Randall knows what he's doing.  He's done it for..."

"Mrs. Maguire went into a routine surgery with a really good doctor last Thursday and we still took her Home!" Violeta countered.  "Things happen!  And I don't want Silly to go Home!  I mean I know he'd be happy there b-but Mary would miss him a-and I would miss him and..."

Andrew glanced over at JenniAnn but her face was buried in the scruff of Yonah's neck. 

"Fine," he decided.  "But that means you'll have to separate Silly and Mary.  At least during breeding season."

"No!"  Violeta threw an arm around each lamb.  "They love each other!  I can't separate them!"    


"How would you like it if I told you that... that you... you couldn't sleep with JenniAnn for three months?"

Andrew's face burned red.


The young angel's own cheeks tinged pink and she looked to JenniAnn.

"I'm sorry..."

JenniAnn opened her mouth to respond but, before she could, there was a loud snort.

Andrew, JenniAnn, and Violeta all turned towards Adam whose back was to them.  His shoulders shook with laughter.

Andrew folded his arms over his chest.

"Gee, thanks, buddy."

Still laughing, Adam turned around.

"Listen, I'm sorry.  But that..."  He broke down again.

JenniAnn began to laugh at the sound of the angel of death's giggles... and giggles they were.

"All right..." she began.

"I'm sorry," Violeta murmured for a second time.

JenniAnn approached and gently patted her hair. 

"It's okay.  It's not your fault a euphemism has complicated things.  But, honey, it's not really the same thing.  Unlike with Andrew and me, Silly could get Mary pregnant.  And I'll be the first to admit that having a little lamb or two would be adorable."

Calming, Andrew stroked Silly's wool and crouched in front of his protectoress.

"They would be adorable.  But how would we take care of them, Violeta?  Sure, we could handle another one or two but then we'd face the same questions next year."  Andrew reached out to take her hand.  "Sweetheart, I don't mean to upset you but I just don't see any way around this."

Violeta bit her lip, tears filling her eyes as she stroked Silly's back.

Recovered from his laughing spell, Adam drew nearer.

"If Silly and Mary prove prolific, I could help," he offered.

The other three all looked to him.

"Adam, I appreciate that.  I really do," Andrew replied.  "But you have your work and..."

Adam nodded.  "I do.  But that work's changed a little.  Per Joshua.  He told me so during the cast party back in April but, at first, I wasn't sure what exactly he meant.  I'll still be keeping my AOD gig but Joshua and the Father have also given me a new job as a sort of... therapist to other angels, I guess you'd say."

Andrew got to his feet and hugged his friend.

"Adam, that's great!"

JenniAnn beamed at Adam.

"I'm so happy for you!" she cheered.

Still worried, Violeta managed a wan smile.

Clapping Andrew on the back, Adam smiled at them. 

"Thanks.  It's recreational therapy mostly.  I mean at least it starts that way.  I've been teaching my charges to knit and, as they knit, they start to talk.  Joshua is pleased."  Adam's cheeks flushed with pride.  "So I may be getting more angels added to my caseload.  Knitting... it requires yarn.  Which requires wool...  If Violeta agrees, I could have my team help with tending the flock, sheering, treating, dying...  Maybe Vincent's people would even help.  We'd give them a cut of the profits, of course.  And/or goods."

"Profits?" JenniAnn asked.

Adam nodded.  "I figure we'd start hitting farmers markets or something.  Sell our wares.  It would be nice to have a little industry going, don't you think?  I mean... Andrew, you have a daughter.  Monica has a son.  While I have every confidence that the two of you and Arthur and you, too, JenniAnn can provide for them... Dyeland is my second home, too.  Children grow up.  We're going to have a building boom in a few years.  It'd be nice to be able to pitch in for the kids."

"It would!" Violeta readily agreed.

Andrew smiled.  While he didn't doubt her sincere desire to help her niece and nephew, he also knew this plan would neatly resolve her dilemma.

JenniAnn stood and hugged Adam. 

Returning her embrace, the elder angel of death studied his old friend.

Andrew dragged his hand through his hair.

"You're sure you want to do this, Adam?" he questioned.

"Yes.  I'd actually been thinking about it even before today's, uh, excitement."

Andrew moved towards Adam and circled his arms around both him and JenniAnn.

After another moment, Violeta rose and joined the group hug.

"So now everyone's happy, right?" Adam checked.

"Right," Andrew, Violeta, and JenniAnn replied in unison.


The four looked to Mary and Silly who were staring at them.

"Do you think they understand?" Violeta asked.

Chuckling, Andrew shook his head.  "I think they just want treats.  But, yeah, maybe they understand that something good is afoot."

Grinning, Violeta gave apple slices to the two and to Yonah.

JenniAnn glanced over at Andrew whose eyes were misting as Violeta began to sing.

"'Tender shepherd, tender shepherd, let me help you count your sheep...'"

Adam patted Andrew on the back.

"You're doing well with her," he encouraged then smiled at JenniAnn.  "Both of you."

Andrew squeezed Adam's and JenniAnn's hands.  "Thanks... but I'm glad it'll be several years before Belle's a teenager."

Violeta was oblivious to their soft laughter as she cuddled with her babies.


Thursday, February 12nd

"I... I just mean... what if... if Mary did get pregnant a-and the labor was really hard on her a-and she died?"

JenniAnn hugged the angel's shoulders.

"Violeta, there's always going to be a risk.  With humans, too.  Yet women become pregnant all the time... yearning for it even.  If you've changed your mind then that's fine but, hon, you shouldn't make decisions based on a fear that the worst case scenario might happen.  Do you remember when I told you that Joshua and I went on a picnic in the Fields while he was here in the spring?"

Violeta smiled and nodded.

"Well, he confronted me about Andrew and how I was kinda keeping him at a distance.  And I admitted to Joshua that I was afraid of drawing Andrew too close when I know I'm going to die and he'll linger on... no longer having the life he became accustomed to here."

The teenager shivered.

"Joshua wasn't having it," JenniAnn continued.  "Because he sees how foolish it is to make our current lives less vibrant and full because some unfortunate thing might happen in the future.  What if I hadn't taken that risk with Andrew?"

Violeta sighed.  "I wouldn't like that... and he definitely wouldn't.  I'm glad we're at Willowveil now.  I mean I'm excited to move to Serendipity with Ivy.  But Andrew needs to live with Belle.  And you.  And I'm glad I've been here for Belle's first year."

JenniAnn kissed her hair.  "Me too."

"Me three."

The two spotted Andrew standing in the doorway to the stable.

"Everything okay with my girls?" he asked as he approached.

Violeta nodded.  "I was just worried about Mary maybe lambing some day and if something happened to her."


"But now I'm not so worried."

Andrew squeezed her hand and peered over her head to smile at JenniAnn.  "Good."

"I am hungry, though..."

Andrew laughed.  "Max is minding the crepes.  They should be done soon.  And Sean called Kemara so she's headed over."

"Oh good!" JenniAnn replied.  "I hadn't had a chance to call her yet."

"So you two ready to head inside?" Andrew queried as he got to his feet.  When the two nodded, he offered them his hands and they headed to the castle.


"Yes, Violeta?"

"What would you have done if Adam hadn't come up with his plan?  Would you have made me get Silly fixed?"

JenniAnn glanced over at Andrew, curious about his response.

Andrew hugged his trainee.  "No, sweetheart.  I wouldn't have forced you.  They're your lambs, not mine.  But you would have had to deal with the consequences.  If that meant spending all your free time tending sheep instead of having some time to watch movies or talk with Ivy... so be it."

JenniAnn smiled with approval.

Violeta rested her cheek against his shoulder.

"I'm glad for Belle," she murmured.  "She has a good Daddy."

"I agree," JenniAnn assented with a lump in her throat.

Andrew circled an arm around each of their waists.

"Thank you.  Both of you.  I'm very happy to be her Daddy."

The angel of death sighed with contentment as his soul mate and his protege each rested their heads on his shoulders.


Peering out the parlor window, Sean watched Andrew, JenniAnn, and Violeta approach the castle. 

Kemara came up behind her fiance and embraced him.

"Spying?" she asked.

Sean chuckled.

"Guilty as charged.  I was just thinking..."  He shook his head.  Maybe it was too goofy to say.

"Spill it."

"I just hope, if we are blessed with children, that when they're teenagers they'll still think we're as cool as Violeta seems to think Andrew and JenniAnn are."

Kemara smiled out at the merry trio.

"That would be nice.  Although God help us if they have as much energy as Violeta does."

Sean laughed.  "We'll teach them to dance.  That'll burn off some energy."

"Violeta dances..."

"Point taken.  I guess we'll just be tired then."

Laughing along with Sean, Kemara hugged him a second time and imagined her betrothed as a dad.


When the Honeymoon is Over

Since there was rehearsal for Superstar later that night, Kemara and Sean met Diana and Zeke at St. Genesius' for their pre-Cana counseling.  After catching up on how they'd each spent the day, the two couples settled down to the business at hand.

"So what questions do you have for us tonight?" Zeke prompted in between bites of the cookies that Kemara had brought along.

"Well... let's see.  I know there was something we meant to ask you both."  Sean bit his lip as he tried to remember.

"The honeymoon," Kemara reminded.  "I mean..."  Her face flushed.  "Not the honeymoon itself.  But how do you know when the honeymoon stage is over?  What was that for the two of you?"

"If you don't mind sharing," Sean added.  "We just mean when the responsibilities and... realness of it all set in."

Diana and Zeke exchanged a knowing look.  They didn't even need to discuss it.

"Well, for us, it was very, very obvious," Diana answered. 

"And it happened on a day that started out very honeymoonish," Zeke remembered with a twinkle in his eyes.


Thursday, March 28th, 1996

Diana sat up with a start when the phone rang.  A call at 6:17 in the morning couldn't be good.

Zeke's eyes burst open a second later.  Nearer to the phone, he scrambled for it.


Diana wrapped her arms around him as she waited for word.  She let out the breath she'd been holding when her husband smiled.

"Wow.  Well, sure.  I'll tell her.  Thanks, Desmond."

Once Zeke had returned the phone to its cradle, he beamed at his wife.

"No school.  Some sort of power outage around there.  You have the day off."

"And so do you..." 

Zeke settled onto his side and began to play with the lace at the top of Diana's negligee.

"So how do you think we should spend the day?" he asked.

"Right here."

Diana leaned up to kiss him and wrap her arms around his neck.

"Not gonna argue with..."

Zeke sunk against his wife as her lips met his.  Just as he pushed a silken strap off her shoulder, Diana jolted.

"Diana, baby, what's wro..."

Holding her gut, Diana hurried out of bed and ran into the bathroom.  Trailing her, Zeke fell to his knees beside his bride and held back her braids as she retched.

When it was over, Diana slumped into Zeke's arms.

"I'm sorry...  It just came on all... all of..."

Before Zeke could console her, Diana lurched forward and vomited again.

His forehead resting against her back, Zeke began to pray silently.

"Please, Lord, let this pain pass for my girl... our girl.  And please... don't let this be too serious."

Zeke's eyes welled as he thought of his father, lost to a burst appendix the year before.

When Diana had stilled again, Zeke ran some cool water onto a wash cloth and wiped her face.

"Can you tell me how you feel?  You... you don't think it's your appendix, do you?"

Diana squeezed his hand, knowing where his thoughts had gone.

"No, honey.  It... it hurts all over.  Not just my side.  I've never felt quite like this, though."

"Maybe just a passing virus?" Zeke hoped aloud.  "All kinds of things going around that school, I'm sure.  Good thing you're home today."

"Not going to be the day off we wanted..."

Zeke kissed her hair.

"It's okay, baby.  You just focus on taking care of you."

Diana nodded against his chest when he scooped her up and carried her to the bed.

"Can I get you anything?"

"Maybe crackers and ginger ale if we have it?"

"I'll go look."

After setting a waste basket beside the bed, Zeke made his way to the kitchen.  He found a box of Saltines in the cupboard but frowned when he opened the container.  Six lone crackers.  A search of the refrigerator didn't turn up any ginger ale, either.

Disappointed, Zeke returned to the bedroom and set the crackers on the bedside table.

"That seems to be all we have.  And no ginger ale.  Do you think you'll be okay if I run to the store?"

"Zeke, you don't have to.  Maybe if I just rest."

"It's hard to rest on an unsettled stomach."

Diana considered this.  Already she could feel her insides beginning to churn.  She nodded.

Zeke gently hugged her.

"I'll be back just as soon as I can.  Straight there and back.  But you call 911 if you feel any worse.  Right away."

With a wan smile, Diana kissed his shoulder.

"I will.  I promise." 

"I love you, my girl."

"I love you, Zeke.  So good to me..."

Zeke tucked the covers around his wife and kissed her forehead.

"You're everything I could ask for in a wife, darling girl."

After forcing a smile for her sake, Zeke quietly left the room.

"Please, Lord, please let her be okay," he prayed again before leaving the house.


At the nearest store, Zeke hastened towards the soda aisle and set three different brands of ginger ale in his cart.  In the snacks aisle, he selected a variety of crackers and then added rice and oatmeal.  On a whim, he grabbed a bouquet of fresh flowers, hoping to bring Diana a little joy.  He headed to the checkout stands then veered towards the pharmacy, thinking maybe he could find something there to ease Diana's upset stomach.

And then he saw them: pregnancy tests.

And he began to wonder.

Glancing over at the counter, Zeke saw that the pharmacist was alone.  He smiled shyly as he approached the woman.

"Good morning!" she greeted.  "How can I help you, sir?"

Zeke glanced at her name tag.

"Good morning, Hailey.  I, uh... I'm Zeke.  And I, umm, I was just wondering if maybe you knew..."

Hailey patted his hand.

"Go on, Zeke.  No judgment here."

Zeke smiled shyly.

"Thank you.  See, well, my wife... she's home.  Sick.  Stomach.  Vomiting.  I was wondering... we've, uh, we've been married six weeks and..."

Hailey's eyes lit up.

"Do you know about when a woman might find herself with morning sickness?" Zeke asked in a rush.

"Well, each woman is different.  Each pregnancy even.  Some don't even ever get sick.  But... six weeks is the norm.  Maybe you brought yourselves home a really special souvenir from the honeymoon."

Zeke grinned.

"Do you need a pregnancy test?"

Zeke nodded.

"Your wife probably doesn't have a preferred brand yet, does she?"

"No, ma'am."


Hailey slipped out from behind the counter, escorted Zeke back to the display, and selected a box.

"They've got history on their side, predicted all three of my babies and that was nearly two decades ago.  They're even better now."

Zeke took the package from her and stared at it.

Hailey eyed the contents of his cart and smiled at his obvious devotion.

"I'll be praying you get the answer you want.  For what it's worth, I think you'll be a good father when the time comes."

"Thank you... thank you, ma'am."

"You're very welcome."

Zeke smiled once more at his helper then wheeled as quickly as possible towards the checkout lines.  Thankfully, there was no waiting.  He was in a daze as he handed over his credit card and signed.



Zeke raced into the house before he even unloaded the car.

"Diana, I'm back!" he called as he dashed towards their room.  He tilted his head and smiled tenderly when he saw her, still in bed, her cheek on his pillow as she faced him.  Her hair was pulled back and she'd changed clothes.  He hoped that meant she was feeling better.

Diana held up her hand when Zeke approached.

"I... I was thinking that maybe you should stay away.  If it is something catching..."

"Then it's probably too late for me," Zeke reasoned.  "Besides, I want to take care of you.  I just wanted to check in on you but I'll go unload the car now.  Still feel up to some ginger ale and more crackers?"

"Yes, please."


After kissing his wife's hair, Zeke hauled his loot inside.  He wondered when he should bring up the test.  Later, he supposed.  Let Diana get a little more food in her.

Diana smiled when Zeke returned with a can of ginger ale and sleeve of crackers in one hand and a bouquet in the other.


"I figured you needed a little beauty and brightness."

Diana caressed the assorted flowers.

"They are beautiful.  Thank you."

"You're welcome.  I'll get a vase in a little bit."  Zeke opened the soda can.  "Here."

Diana smiled after taking a sip.

"Tastes good."

Tearing open the crackers, Zeke held them out to her.

After nibbling a couple, Diana sunk against the pillows.  She tilted her head as she studied her husband.

"What?" Zeke questioned.

"Something...  I don't know.  Something in your eyes.  You're... hiding something."  Diana frowned.

Zeke drew in and let out a deep breath.  He should have known better than to think he could hide his nervousness from her.  He nodded and settled beside Diana.

"Diana, I... I got to thinking while I was at the store and then... then I talked to the pharmacist lady.  Hailey was her name.  Baby, it's been six weeks since... since our wedding night."  Zeke smiled dreamily as he remembered.  "And... and Hailey said six weeks in pretty common for... for morning sickness to set in if..."

Diana blinked and set her hand over her belly.

"If..." she echoed.

"I bought a test... if you would want to take it."

Tears welling in her eyes, Diana nodded.

Zeke hugged her then went to the kitchen where he'd left the little box sitting on the table. 

When he returned, Diana took the test from her husband.  She squeezed his hand and slipped into the bathroom.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Zeke bowed his head and prayed.  He hoped for the sign.  A little one to love and cherish would be an incredible blessing... but the sign would also assure him that his girl was well... better than well.  He raised his head when he heard running water and knew Diana was washing her hands.

"It said about five minutes," she informed him in a hushed voice.


When Diana was resettled in the bed, Zeke took both her hands in his.

"Could... could you pray aloud?" she requested.

Zeke nodded.  Knowing he wasn't going to be coherent otherwise, he'd been repeating the Lord's Prayer.  He recited the ancient words.

"'Our Father, who art in Heaven...'"

Diana kept her eyes on the clock.  It had been 7:01 when she'd entered the bathroom.

At 7:06, after he'd finished his current recitation, Diana squeezed her husband's hands.

"It's been five minutes."

"Do you want me to check?" Zeke offered.  "Or do you want to or... or we both?"

Diana's legs felt wobbly, whether from nerves or the sickness she wasn't sure. 

"Could you?"


Zeke turned towards the bathroom door then halted.  He spun back around and kissed his wife.

Smiling, Diana embraced him then watched him enter the bathroom.  She strained to hear any sign.  Her heart began to pound when Zeke stepped back out... a massive grin on his face.

"I... I..." Diana stuttered.

Zeke nodded.

"Pregnant," he verified.

Zeke swooped down and encircled her in his arms.

"Baby... we're going to have a baby!" he cried.

Smiling herself, Diana wept and clung to her husband.

"Hailey... she... she said maybe we'd brought home a special souvenir from our honeymoon.  I guess we did!" Zeke exulted.

"The best kind of souvenir," Diana agreed.  Secure in the knowledge that there was no way her beloved was going to catch what she had, she kissed his cheek.  "I love you."

"And I love you.  So much!  Thank You, Lord!" Zeke shouted, peering up at the ceiling.

Diana beamed at the ceiling then snuggled against Zeke. 

Zeke's hand hovered over her belly.

"Can I?  But I don't want to hurt..."

Diana lifted her shirt then placed her husband's hand against her stomach.

"Say hello to Daddy," she whispered.

His eyes filled with tears of joy, Zeke let out a blissful sigh.

Diana stared at his hand on her belly and thanked God as she marveled at the miracle growing inside her, a miracle she and Zeke and God had created together.


Thursday, February 12th, 2015

"Not as exotic as having Joshua tell you that you're pregnant," Diana concluded.  "But still wonderful!"

Sean gaped at the two.

"That... that would change things," he choked out.  "In a big way."

Diana and Zeke beamed at each other.

"It did.  But in the best way.  Our little Hailey..."  Diana brushed at a tear as she remembered the tiny baby... the same baby who would soon head to college.

"You named her after the pharmacist?" Kemara questioned.

Zeke laughed and nodded.

"Trust me, she deserved the honor.  We were nervous newbie expectant parents and in and out of that pharmacy with all sorts of questions on a near weekly basis."

"I had an obstetrician of course," Diana assured.  "But Hailey was just so much more personable than he was."

"Only married six weeks and pregnant already..." Sean marveled.

Kemara bowed her head, remembering a vision she'd had when the two had babysat Manny: a beaming Joshua holding two small bundles out to them...

Diana shrugged.  "I know it's sooner than a lot of people seem to want but it made sense to me.  If you're going to spend the bulk of your married life as parents, why not get to know your husband or wife as a parent if the Lord wills it?  So we did."

"For example, I wouldn't have gotten to know Diana's favorite brand of ginger ale... Canada Dry... and crackers... Club... as soon as I did without our Hailey's speedy arrival on the scene," Zeke jested.

"So that was how we knew the honeymoon was over!" Diana declared. 

"But it really wasn't a bad thing at all.  We still found time for just the two of us even after Hailey was born.  It got harder, sure.  But we managed." 

Kemara smiled at Zeke.  "I'm sure Sy and Kendra and Manny are happy about that."

Chuckling, Zeke nodded. 

"And even with Manny, we still manage thanks to the older kids and our incredible friends who help with babysitting."  Diana's eyes twinkled as she smiled at Kemara and Sean.

With a grin, Sean nodded.

"He's fun to babysit... once you get the hang of it.  And having moved to Willowveil, I see what you mean about friends even more now.  When Andrew and JenniAnn wanted to go dancing a couple weeks ago, I thought Max and Violeta were going to start fighting over who got to babysit Belle."

"Couldn't they both?" Diana asked.

"Which was Andrew's and JenniAnn's solution.  But they still bickered over who got to feed her."

Shaking her head and laughing, Kemara took her fiance's hand. 

"Well, I think we might have a while... if it even happens for us."  She stared down at her hands.  "You two were much younger than us when you conceived Hailey."

Sean's tender gaze studied his bride-to-be.  He wasn't sure a wait before a baby was a bad thing.  Then again, Joshua had said their next Christmas may not be as they were picturing... but beautiful.  And that could mean anything.

Diana rested her hand over the couple's.

"True.  But you never know," Zeke reassured.  "You know you'll be in our prayers.  You always are."

Calmed, Kemara sucked in a deep breath and smiled.

"Thank you.  So... are you excited for your first Valentine's in Dyeland?  Andrew and JenniAnn can get pretty enthusiastic."

With a laugh, Zeke nodded.

"So I've heard... and seen.  Adam showed us a video of them in red and pink glittery costumes."

Sean cringed.  "Really?"

"You never know but since they do have a little one now... they might be a bit more subdued," Kemara reasoned.

"I bet they focus more on Belle's ensemble," Sean kidded.

"I can't wait to see her in her little dress for the wedding!" Kemara gushed.

"I can't wait to see you in yours."

Diana and Zeke looked at each other as the younger couple exchanged shy smiles.

Whether their wedding night brought a "souvenir" or not, the Wilsons were sure it would be a happy one.


What the Lord Has Done

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Since the early rehearsals had gone so well, Emma and Peter had canceled practices for Friday and Saturday so they and their friends could enjoy the holiday.  Thus, Valentine's Eve found Arthur and Monica stargazing and sipping lattes beside the fire pit outside Veritas.  Catherine and Vincent had retired early to their chamber, their door tellingly closed.  Jacob and Owen indulged in their mutual love of painting, both bringing Joshua forth from their canvases.  A few corridors away, Brittony and Eliot rocked their twins.  With Edison in his mother's arms and Eleanor in her father's, Galen sat on a stool in front of them and invented a story to amuse his siblings.  Sequestered in his chamber, the Tunnel patriarch read his Bible, happily lost in thoughts of his Lady and her Son.  As it was also their anniversary eve, Diana and Zeke splurged on a fancy, candlelit dinner at a fine restaurant and spent most of the evening on the dance floor.  Back at the Wilsons' residence, Ivy and Sy babysat Manny who obediently fell asleep not long after 7:00, leaving the young couple to enjoy a chilled bottle of sparkling cider, decadent cupcakes, cozy conversation, and dances of their own.  At Serendipity, Violeta, Hailey, and Kendra shrieked with glee when Emma and Peter delivered Jocelyn and Zoe to their doorstep for a sleepover.  Afterwards, the couple returned to Manhattan where they shared dinner with Azalea and Basil on the terrace of their favorite restaurant.  Following a lovely meal with Aunt Josephine, Max and Rose took to L.A. to enjoy a moonlit stroll along the balmy beach.  Hand in hand, Kemara and Sean walked along the beach in Dyeland, just outside the home they would soon share.  In Albany, Edward and Caleb prepared dinner for their Aunt Dot and Uncle Randall.  At their apartment, Cira and Crystal giggled and wept as they watched a succession of romantic comedies.  They were wistful for romances of their own and yet grateful to have an evening in which to celebrate their friendship.  No such bittersweetness touched the hearts of Tim, Tyson, or Jeff who made toasts to each over root beer and cream soda at True Light as they celebrated receiving a sizable grant to support their boxed cradle endeavor.  Aware that they were the only ones in their group without company that evening, Fr. Mike and Shane took a lead from Samson who was entertaining his parents.  They decided to prepare dinner and dessert for the Levines.  Yakov and Tiva made a fuss when the two tried to bow out after serving them.  As a result, the four ate together with conversation soon turning to laughter-filled remembrances of their time with Joshua.

The Cafe in Dyeland had been overrun by several of the angels who had taken part in Superstar.  Having volunteered themselves for babysitting duty, Andrew and JenniAnn, along with Portia, brought Lily, Liam, Shelby, Persephone, and Belle there.  They clapped and cheered as the band played and the four older children danced.  In the same instance that Henry took Belle from Andrew's arms, Kelly and Ronald pushed him and JenniAnn onto the dance floor where they demonstrated the Charleston as Tess and her band played.  When the number was finished, Eli cut in and started a square dance with JenniAnn.  Portia and Persephone followed them in their promenade with Andrew and Belle and then Lily, Liam, and Shelby who were succeeded by the angels who were not bound to their instruments.

Only one angel hung back.

Adam smiled and laughed as he watched the others but he kept part of his focus trained on his cell phone.  Waiting... waiting to see what would happen when two secrets he'd kept to himself would be revealed.


Clay and Kylie sat near the pier at the Romano Family Farm.  It was there they'd had their first real conversation together and both had agreed it was the perfect spot to spend their first Valentine's together.  There was a chill in the air but a nearby fireplace kept them comfortable and warm as they gazed out at the starry sky and its reflection on the pond.  The fire also supplied the necessary flame for the s'mores they planned to enjoy for dessert. 

"Caleb mentioned that someone with the high school approached you at church this past Sunday and asked you about coaching the basketball team," Kylie ventured as she unpacked the graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate while Clay rose to hunt up two sticks.  She'd been a little surprised when Caleb had brought it up and had wondered why Clay hadn't told her. 

Clay broke off a second bare branch from a bush and returned to his girlfriend's side.  "Oh, uh, yeah.  I meant to tell you about that."

"Did you accept his offer?"

"I told him I'd think about it."

"So... are you leaning towards yes or no?"

Clay shrugged.  "I'm not opposed.  Truth is, it sounds fun.  Randall was thrilled by the idea.  I guess he used to play for them.  He said he'd give me whatever time off that I'd need.  And Dot offered to host a team dinner.  Caleb asked if he could be the mascot.  Edward just shook his head at him." 

Kylie laughed.  "Sometimes it's hard to believe they're twins.  So different!  But complementary.  Well, at least since Joshua."

Clay stroked her back as she sighed.

Kylie swiveled around to squeeze his hand then resumed speaking.  "So what's holding you back?"

Clay stuck a marshmallow onto one of the sticks and handed it to Kylie.

"Thank you!"

"You're welcome.  Well, I guess, first of all, it was the usual thing."  Clay waved his hand over his face.  "But then I realized that the principal... that's who approached me... wouldn't have asked if he didn't think the kids could handle it."

After slipping her melted marshmallow between two graham crackers and a chocolate bar, Kylie hugged Clay's left arm as his right held his marshmallow above the flame.

"I'm sure not," she agreed.

Clay smiled and made his own s'more.  He sighed happily as he bit into the deliciously sweet, gooey mess.

Kylie giggled.  "Good, isn't it?"


In companionable silence, the two enjoyed their treats.

"I'm gonna have to have another," Clay declared.


They each burnt a second marshmallow then resumed their conversation.

"So if that was the 'first of all' your reservations about taking the coaching job, does that mean there was something else?" Kylie questioned.

"Kylie, I..."

She giggled.

Clay grinned.  "What?"

"It's just... you have chocolate all around your lips."

Laughing, Clay swiped at his mouth.  "Better?"

"Worse, actually.  Now it's all over your cheek."

Kylie removed a napkin from their picnic basket, poured some water onto it, and dabbed at the man's face.

Clay held in his breath.  So many people had stared at him, many with revulsion and fright.  He didn't want to consider how they might react if they'd actually had to touch his scarred face.  Now here was Kylie, acting as nonchalant and comfortable as if it was her own skin beneath her fingers.

"All better!  So what were you about to say?"

"Thanks.  I... well, it's just that if I started then I'd want to stay on for as long as they'd have me.  In the four years I played basketball in high school, we had three different coaches.  It's hard to feel like a team when your leaders keep switching."

"Sure.  I never played sports but I can see that."

"It's just... hard to say whether I'll stay in Albany."

Alarmed, Kylie looked up at Clay and grabbed his hands.  "B-but where would you go?  A-and why would you go away?  Don't you..."

Sorry for having accidentally frightened Kylie, Clay pulled her to him.  "No, no, no.  Kylie... dearest Kylie... that's not what...  I only meant...  You really love it at school with Diana and... and even with the portal...  People would maybe get suspicious if... if... I mean what if we messed up and I went to a school function with you and then came back here to coach and it was in the papers and people realized I couldn't have gotten between NYC and Albany so quickly and... and so I thought maybe you'd want to... to stay at your school and live in the city after we..."

Kylie gaped at Clay.

"What I mean is... is..."  Clay grimaced.  "I... I wanted this to be less disjointed a-and more elegant for you but..."  He reached into his pocket and got down on one knee in front of Kylie.

"Oh... oh, oh," Kylie murmured as she began to stroke Clay's hair.

"Kylie May Carlisle, would you do me the honor of... of being my wife?" he asked.

"Yes!  Yes, yes, yes!" Kylie cried.

Beaming, Clay slipped the ring onto her shaking hand.

Kylie lunged at Clay with a force that surprised them both.  Despite his considerable size, the man fell backwards onto the grass and laughed as his intended peered down at him.

Kylie blushed.  "Oops." 

After bestowing a sweet smile on Clay, Kylie rested her head against his shoulder.

Clay wrapped an arm around her and stared up at the stars.  He brushed his free hand through her hair.

"Thank God..." he whispered. 


"Thank God you... you said yes and thank God I got that out.  I, umm, got a little off my game in case you couldn't tell."

Kylie stretched her neck up and smiled at him.  "A little.  But it was still perfect.  And, even if your plan had fallen completely apart, I think we woulda still ended up engaged tonight."

Clay chuckled.  "How so?"

With some reluctance, Kylie moved away from him and reopened the picnic basket.

Curious, Clay sat up and watched as she removed a tied and folded handkerchief.  He smiled as he recognized it as the one Maryam had given to her.

"I thought this seemed a good place to keep it until... til tonight," Kylie explained as she undid the small bundle.

"Aww, Kylie..." Clay choked out when he saw what the handkerchief contained.

Kylie knelt in front of him.

"Clay Carson Stanford, will you, please, marry me?" she requested.

"A... a thousand times yes," he accepted, stroking her face as she slid a claddagh onto his finger.

Each moved in for a kiss.

"I love you, Clay," Kylie murmured.

"And I love you, Kylie," he echoed, kissing her curls.  Closing his eyes, he thanked Joshua again for cajoling his sorry self out of his hospital room nearly a year before.

Clinging to her fiance, Kylie prayed in thanksgiving for Joshua's counsel and love which had allowed her to leave an abusive marriage and enter into one of mutual love, respect, and faith.  She smiled as she drank in the scent of Clay's cologne and the warmth of his embrace.


Clay pulled away just a bit and cocked his head.  "Pardon?"

"Albany.  I want to live here," Kylie told him.  "I'm sure I could find something at one of the schools and I want you to take that coaching job, Clay.  And... and it's a better place to raise our family, I think."

Cupping her face in his hands, Clay nodded.  "I... I agree."

Kylie closed her eyes as he kissed her forehead.  Then she tilted his head downward so their lips brushed.

"Oh!" she burst out after a third kiss.

Alarmed, Clay's head shot up.  "What is it?"

"Adam!  I told him I was going to propose tonight.  So... so I should tell him that you accepted!"

Clay laughed loudly.  "Wait...  I told Adam that I was going to propose to you tonight."

Kylie began to laugh, too.  "When did you tell him?"

"Just yesterday, right before rehearsal.  I'd decided to a while before that but I didn't want him to have to keep it to himself for too long.  When did you tell him?"

"Also yesterday... after rehearsal."

Clay shook his head and grinned.  "What did he say?"

"Congratulations and that he thought it was wonderful and he was so, so happy for us.  To you?"

"The same basically.  And he didn't seem at all... anxious?  Like he was struggling not to tell you about what I said?"

"He was excited but, no, cool as a cucumber!"  Kylie couldn't stop laughing. 

"He's probably about to burst now.  You're right, we gotta tell him.  Here, hold your hand out."

Clay snapped a picture of both their ringed hands hovering in the air.

Kylie rested her chin on his shoulder as he attached the photo to a text.

"What should we say?"

Kylie pondered the question.  "Hmm...  How about 'Happily engaged... twice over.  Thanks for keeping our secrets.'  Maybe we should let him forward it along?  Share the news?"

Clay smiled and nodded as he typed.  He knew Adam would relish the responsibility.

"Oh and 'We love you, Adam.'"

"Got it.  Now we ready to send?" Clay checked.


Once the little window popped up announcing that their message was sent, Clay set the phone down and embraced his bride-to-be.

In the few minutes before Caleb, Edward, Dot, and Randall came tearing out of the farmhouse to congratulate them, the couple knelt on the pier with their hands joined and their foreheads resting against each other.  They prayed to their Beloved Friend who had brought them together and who they trusted to always keep them together.


Anam Caras

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Andrew woke up shaking and at first thought JenniAnn or one of the dogs was hogging the blankets.  But no...  He was completely covered and the room was comfortably warm.  The angel rolled to his side and, seeing JenniAnn, remembered what he had dreamed and why he was shaking. 




Andrew let out a shuddering sigh and rested his hand on JenniAnn's arm.  She smiled but did not wake.  As much as he wanted to talk to her, he didn't feel right waking her.  They'd gone to bed late, after celebrating Clay's and Kylie's engagement and working on the video.  On top of that, it would be a long, though happy, day: breakfast with a number of their friends then the party in the ballroom with even more friends followed by a visit to JenniAnn's parents and grandma so they could give Belle her Valentine's presents and, hopefully, finding some time to sneak away by themselves for a dance or two.

His chills lingering, Andrew slipped out of bed, grabbed his robe, and made his way to Belle's nursery.  Like her mother, she was sleeping soundly.  Her breathing was normal, no hint of the week's earlier raspiness.  Andrew prayed over her then headed to the library.  After getting a fire going, he pulled a chair directly in front of it.  Staring into the flames, the angel tried to piece together the dream.  It was more sounds... the sobbing and the sirens... and colors... red, everywhere... than anything episodic.  There had been random images but they were strange: childish beads, a cloaked and hooded figure, rain.  Lots of rain.  A small duck, fighting to stay afloat on the current.  And the cross... her cross with the six birthstones...

No, he wouldn't think about that part.  Shaking all of the images off, Andrew closed his eyes and began to pray.

"Is there anything to it, Father?  Was it just... confusion, Joshua?  So many assignments...  They're bound to come up randomly, weaved into my own life in nonsensical ways.  Aren't they?"

He heaved a sigh.

"Laja's here.  And she's happy... and safe.  Our Belle, too.  Thank You for that.  That's what matters.  Not dreams."

Andrew's eyes fluttered open.  It was a dream that brought JenniAnn to Belle and him on that first night.

Closing his eyes again, the angel of death resumed his prayers.

"If there's a message that I'm meant to take from this nightmare, please help me to know it.  If there's something I'm meant to do, please lead me to it.  As always, I place my family, my friends, and myself in Your hands."

"Andrew, love, what are you doing?"

JenniAnn approached.  She glanced at a chair and tried to decide whether to move it closer to Andrew's.

Smiling for her, Andrew rose.

"I woke up and you looked so peaceful.  I was afraid I'd wake you up if I stayed so..."

JenniAnn gently pushed him back into the chair, frowned, and rested her hand against his forehead.

"You look pale... a little clammy even.  I hope you're not catching Belle's cold."

"I don't think so.  I feel fine."  And he did... physically.

"Well, in that case..." 

Andrew chuckled when JenniAnn perched on the left arm of his chair.

"So you were going to avoid me if I had the sniffles?" he teased.

"Avoid's a strong word.  But maybe I'd be slightly less cuddly."  JenniAnn grinned then readjusted.  "Although... I forgot that these wooden arms aren't terribly comf..."

Andrew looped his arm around her waist and pulled.

Startled but pleased, JenniAnn blushed as she spoke.  "All right then.  Did not know this was an option.  Will most definitely keep that in mind for future seating reference."

Andrew clasped her hand.  "Laja...  Happy Valentine's Day."  He rested his chin on her hair when she nestled against his chest.

"Happy Valentine's Day to you, too, but..."  While not budging from his lap, JenniAnn sat up, cupped the angel's chin, and peered into his eyes.  "Something's wrong.  Tell me?"

Andrew brought both her hands to his lips then began.  "I had a nightmare."

"Oh, love..."

"About you."

"Did I bleach all your flannel shirts?  That would be a nightmare!"

Andrew gave her a wan smile and buried his right hand in her hair.


"I don't even know what happened in it.  Just... flashes of things... sirens, crying, rain...  And the way I felt... so... so halved.  You..."  Tears welled in the angel of death's eyes.

JenniAnn let out a shaky breath and bowed her head.  It was slightly alarming... but only slightly.  It wouldn't be the first time Andrew's AOD work had made him fret over her and that was likely all it was and even if not...  She thumbed some tears away from his face. 

"Love, I've felt that, too.  Halved.  In waking life, I mean.  When you were in the hospital after you'd been living on the streets, when you were in Afghanistan with Max.  But... but it was fleeting.  You came back to us, to me.  Even if, let's say, something did happen to me... I might very well recover as you did.  Or... or if not here then... then I would still be with you.  Joshua promised."

Andrew smiled and nodded.  "He did."

"And, if it makes you feel any better, Joshua promised me something else.  He said he'd be back for a holiday here and there and that he'd show up and join me as I had a cup of tea and that he'd appear in the Tunnels.  He told me that I'd have to wait for those times.  Showing up for Christmas doesn't fulfill 'a holiday here and there' as far as I'm concerned.  It's just one holiday... a wonderful one but still just one.  And he hasn't surprised me as I sipped tea or unexpectedly come Below.  So either we're going to have a bunch of rapid fire visits from Joshua... which doesn't really fit with the waiting thing... or I'm going to be here for quite a while.  Which is for the best because I don't think our friends would tolerate you getting another anam cara.  They're quite loyal to me."

JenniAnn's coquettish grin dispelled the last of Andrew's uneasiness.  He laughed as he embraced her tightly.

"You should have been a lawyer, Laja.  Although theologian does suit you better."  Andrew exhaled deeply and kissed her temple.  "I feel better.  Thank you."

"You're welcome."

"Daaaada.  Maaaama."

JenniAnn laughed as she got to her feet.  "We're being paged."

"Dada!  Mama!" 

"Persistently," Andrew added as he took her hand and headed across the hall.

They found Belle standing up in her crib, her face pressed against the bars and her lips pursed.

Her parents laughed at her grouchy face. 

"Almost Tess-like!" Andrew joked.

Belle giggled as if she understood the joke then hugged Andrew's neck when he picked her up.

As he snuggled her, Andrew held his free arm aloft then wrapped it around JenniAnn when she approached.

"Now how do you feel?" JenniAnn asked.

"Blessed," the angel replied.


The St. Genesius crowd was not disappointed by the Valentine's fanfare in Dyeland.  The mild weather allowed for the windows to be opened, bringing in the fresh air and sunlight.  Bouquets of daffodils, hellebores, and snowdrops further enlivened the Willowveil ballroom.  Various sweets and treats covered two tables and, in combination with a variety of teas, juices, wines, and coffees, served to enliven the party-goers.  After an hour had passed, Andrew and JenniAnn showed their video.  The crowd laughed at goofy behind-the-scenes photos of Jesus Christ Superstar and "awwed" over clips of the babies and children being adorable.  Couples clasped hands as their engagement and anniversary photos flicked across the screen.  There were sighs and teary eyes whenever Joshua, Maryam, Yosef, or John appeared. 

The crowd began to applaud and cheer when Carole King's "You've Got a Friend" came down to its last few notes as a photograph of the whole crowd on Christmas faded away.  When the screen dimmed to black, Andrew stood up to turn off the projector.  Then, suddenly, the screen came alive again.

"Ah-ah!" Belle shrieked as the others all stared in awe.

Andrew stumbled back into his chair as Joshua beamed while sitting on a bench in his carpentry shop.

"Happy Valentine's Day, beloved ones!" he greeted.  "I couldn't resist adding a little to Andrew's and JenniAnn's video.  It was wonderful to relive all those moments with you.  And to think of all the moments to come!  And there will be so many happy, love-filled moments: babies to be born... and not just human babies, huh, Duckling?"

Violeta laughed and nodded as she swiped at a tear.

Joshua grinned.  "Weddings, anniversaries, new friendships formed.  There will be trials, too.  You know that.  But don't ever forget that I'm with you every step of the way, sometimes dancing alongside you, sometimes holding you when you can't take another step.  Whatever it is, whenever it is: I'm there, loving you always."

The room filled with murmured "I love yous" sent back to Joshua.

Joshua clasped his hands over his heart and his eyes sparkled as he smiled. 

"Thank you.  Now... I think this is a time for dancing.  Remember, even though you can't see me, I'm right there with you.  I love you all so much!"

In the same instant that the screen flickered off, the sound system boomed and began to play a song. 

"Of all the boys I've known, and I've known some,
until I first met you I was lonesome.
And when you came in sight, dear, my heart grew light.
And this old world seemed new to me."

Laughing at the surprising song pick, several of the adults rose from their chairs and began to dance.  After watching for a few moments, the children joined in.  Knowing the song was important to Andrew and JenniAnn, Owen hurried to them and lifted a gleefully shrieking Belle from her mother's lap.  Andrew clasped JenniAnn's hand as they watched the two dance.

"Shall we?" Andrew offered after the second verse.

Squeezing his hand, JenniAnn nodded and followed him to the dance floor.  Soon they were laughing as they danced, their friends all stopping to circle around and watch them.

"Bei mir bistu shein, please let me explain,
Bei mir bistu shein means that you're grand.
Bei mir bistu shein, again I'll explain,
It means you're the fairest in the land.
I could say 'bella, bella!', even say 'wunderbar!'
Each language only helps me tell you
how grand you are.
I've tried to explain 'Bei mir bistu shein'.
So kiss me and say you understand."

Only one person in the room saw not one but two men swinging and twirling their ladies around the dance floor.

Sitting at an abandoned table, Joshua smiled at his Andrew and his JenniAnn and at his David and his Esther.

When the song ended, the latter couple, laughing and linking their arms around each other, returned to him.

"Wunderbar!" David praised, grinning as he looked over his shoulder at Andrew and JenniAnn who were blushing as their loved ones applauded.

Chava sighed happily as she took in her friends.  "They're beautiful," she added.  Her smile grew when Owen handed Belle to Andrew.  "And that precious girl of theirs!  Darling Belle!"

Joshua squeezed her hand.  "JenniAnn still wishes that you two could have met."

For a moment, Chava's face clouded but then she looked into Joshua's eyes and calmed.

"I... I will tell JenniAnn that I have seen her Belle and adore everything about her," Chava promised.  "And that I am so pleased with how close she and Andrew have become.  And yet..."  Though Joshua had warned her before they'd made their brief return to the mortal realms, Chava was surprised by how foreign worry felt.  It didn't exist in Paradise.  She peered at David.  She knew what it was to have her soul mate torn away from her by violence.

David bowed his head and took his beloved's free hand.  "Andrew is strong, Essie.  Their love for each other is strong.  It... it's borne of him."  He smiled at Joshua.  "And they have so many, many friends to help them through!  On this side... and our side."

Smiling, Chava nodded.  "So many..." she echoed, her gaze drifting over the angels and humans and pets. 

"JenniAnn will be so pleased to see her beloved Chava again, Esther, and to meet you, David," Joshua cheered.  He looked tenderly at the woman as she and Belle snuggled against Andrew's shoulders. 

"And to see you again, Joshua... you most of all," David murmured.

With tears in his eyes, Joshua continued to stare at Andrew, Belle, and JenniAnn.  Then he began to speak.

"'Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.  For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?  And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.'"

Chava let out the breath she'd been holding and nodded.

"And many other strands will join those three," David vowed.

Joshua smiled proudly and nodded.  "They will."

Oblivious to the three visitors and yet feeling suddenly heartened, Andrew rested his chin on JenniAnn's hair and stroked Belle's back as he peered at the ceiling.

"Thank You.  I trust You.  I love You," he prayed.

Willing his love to the angel of death and all his merry, love-filled band, Joshua beamed.

The End


Jesus Christ Superstar
Care Bears
"Moon River" by Harry Mancini
The Closer You Get

"Tender Shepherd" by Moose Charlap and Carolyn Leigh from Peter Pan
The Lord's Prayer/Our Father/Matthew 6:9-13
Psalm 118:22-24- "the Lord has done this"
"You've Got a Friend" by Carole King
Ecclesiastes 3:4- "a time to dance"
"Bei Mir Bistu Shein" by Jacob Jacobs and Sholom Secunda (Yiddish) and Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin (English rewrite)
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12- "the cord of three strands"

JABB Portal
JABB 431

(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from Touched by an Angel and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)